Friday, February 20, 2015

Will the Southwest Chief go through Pueblo?

Posted By on Fri, Feb 20, 2015 at 3:39 PM

This is the proposed route through Pueblo for the Southwest Chief.
  • This is the proposed route through Pueblo for the Southwest Chief.


Everyone flies these days, but how about taking a leisurely trek to California via rail? The California Zephyr takes about 33 hours from Denver to Oakland, and I took that trip in 2006. 

But the Southwest Chief, through southeast Colorado, is in a state of flux due to BNSF railroad company refusing to maintain the rails for Amtrak past January 2016. That's prompted Kansas and Colorado to get together and find ways to upgrade the rails, to assure the train doesn't change course and avoid western Kansas and Colorado altogether.

Not only that, but the Southwest Chief Rail Line Economic Development, Rural Tourism, and Infrastructure Repair and Maintenance Commission wants to convince Amtrak to redirect the route through Pueblo. If that happens, you could board in Pueblo and travel through Trinidad before turning west to Los Angeles.

Today, the commission announced it has finished its report and recommends the Colorado General Assembly allocate $8.91 million to the effort. The press release follows, and the full report is available below that.

Today the Southwest Chief Rail Line Economic Development, Rural Tourism and Infrastructure Repair and Maintenance Commission released its formal Final Report Regarding Funding that was prepared for the Legislature's Joint Budget Committee. The Governor-appointed Southwest Chief Commission is legally tasked with negotiating costs, and saving the Southwest Chief Amtrak rail line thru Colorado, while also exploring adding additional stops in Pueblo and Walsenburg.

The Final Report Regarding Funding outlines how the Commission has worked to get Colorado's cost allocation down to $8.91 million, instead of the previously anticipated $40 million. Savings come from the successful TIGER grant last year that 12 Southeastern Colorado communities collaborated on, and from successful negotiations with the BNSF Railway. The other significant cost savings was realized because the BNSF railway has now agreed to accept the full financial responsibility for annual track maintenance on the La Junta sub, which includes the entirety of the stretch of the Southwest Chief line through Colorado, excluding the Raton Pass. The $8.91 price tag is actually a third of the total remaining cost, however, it is expected that Amtrak and BNSF will also participate in cost-sharing.

The Southwest Chief Commission formally adopted the report at its meeting last week at the State Capitol. Senate Bill 176 has been introduced by Senators Leroy Garcia (D-Pueblo) and Larry Crowder (R-Alamosa) to appropriate the $8.91 million to finalize saving the line through Colorado. The next task of the Southwest Chief Commission will be to work on connecting the route through Pueblo and Walsenburg.
click to enlarge Here's the path of the Southwest Chief at present. - AMTRAK GOVERNMENT AFFAIRS
  • Amtrak Government Affairs
  • Here's the path of the Southwest Chief at present.

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